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Thanks Tengfamily & snowblind. Photographs are misleading. My hall is not that big. But the front part (TV area) does have a high ceiling (2 storeys).

We go for simple clean looks. No sophisticated hifi sound system with wires and speakers everywhere. Just a smart TV and soundbar below. Both wall mount with ooncealed wiring.

 

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I tried various types of decking in my new place. On my second level balcony, by the side of the vertical garden and above the koi pond, I tried 12mm + laminate + 12mm tempered glass decking. Then I suspended a bubble chair there. Many of my visitors do not dare to step out to this balcony, But it's perfectly safe.

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For the other room, I tried this high technology wood from Accoya. It comes with 50 year warranty (not sure if the house can even last that long!). Having been told by so many people that only tropical hard wood like Chengai is suitable, I was sceptical. But I was shown pictures showing Accoya wood being used in every situation including bridges. And hey, after almost a year, some of the staining may be a bit discoloured but the wood itself is as good as new. No warping, peeling or anything.

If you are interested in Accoya wood, you can watch this video:

Edited by kstoh
 

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This is my outdoor patio constructed by my landscape contractor. He saw my level 2 Accoya wood and pulled me aside. He told me there is no way this type of "ang moh" wood can last 5 years, let alone 50 years. He says only tropical hard wood like Chengai is suitable. When I told him that I heard that it is not possible to get good Chengai anymore, he told me to trust him. So, I agreed to use Chengai for this decking.

From this:

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To this:

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Initial results were impressive and the contractor even used this picture of my decking for his advertisement in the ST Classfieds. All the wood planks warped slightly (I was pre-warned this is "natural") and there were hardline cracks here and there (again pre-warned this is "natural"), all of which I accept. But what I cannot accept is that after a month or two, a few of the planks had serious cracks that became bigger and very obvious, with the top layer of wood peeling off. I am still chasing the contractor to do something, but it seems like he is not responding.

Edited by kstoh
 

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This is my roof terrace. And it is the single most important reason why I bought this place. I can see the planes taking off from Changi Airport in the east, golf course at Tanah Merah, Bedok Camp, Costa Del Sol all the way to Bedok in the north.

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A nice place to have BBQs.

Edited by kstoh
 

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There are a couple of lessons I learnt from my experience.

1. Monitor, monitor, monitor - No matter how renowed or expensive your ID or subcontractor, the level of competency and common sense is at the level of their lowest sub-contractor. We engaged a reputable ID company. But of course, you deal with the young designer who gives instructions to some supervisor, who in turn instructs a foreman, but finally the worker who does the job is a guy who turns up on a Malaysian motorbike. Don't get me wrong. Many malaysian workers in this trade are very skilled. But due to many reasons including different expectations or ideas, changes in the message after being passed through too many people, the final product may not be what you envisaged. You have got to be there to monitor, monitor, monitor.

2. Trust your instinct & do not follow blindly - Often, we think something should be done in a certain way, but the ID or contractor tells us that is not the way things are done. Don't just accept it. Your instinct is already trying to tell you something. Check with others. Ask. Maybe you are right. There were many such instances in my case. LIke when I wanted to put a spare power point in the false ceiling and both my ID and contractor thought I was mad. At that time, I had no idea of the potential use but now that I am thinking of mounting an IP camera on the ceiling, where to get the power source? Like what Steve Jobs said, you cannot connect dots moving forwards, but often you can connect them backwards.

3. Lay network points from your OpenNet TP to every room - This is important. In the near future, many services (internet, TV etc) will be delivered via this network. WiFi does not work for everything.

4. Protection, protection, protection - This is very important yet many IDs and contractors do not seem to understand. So, in my case (as in many cases), they just put a simple cardboard. What a joke! With hacking, sand, tiles, marble etc etc passing though, what do they expect but to spoil the marble and wooden floor? Then they have to rectify. But it is never the same.

5. Do not put all your eggs in one basket. Don't sign a contract with your ID or contractor for everything in one lump sum. Breakdown into different parts of the work e.g. hacking, flooring, painting, kitchen etc. Have a clause that allows you to omit any part of the work. This was how my wife engaged specialist subcontractors directly for parts of the work.

6. When buying expensive equipment (refrigerator, TV, washing machine, dryer etc), buy 5 year extended warranty if possible. In the past, such equipment lasts a long time (more than 10 years). But if you noticed, most of these companies have gone out of business as the consumers do not need to buy replacements. These days, most consumer items are build to last only just past the standard 1 or 2 year warranty period, so that they can sell you another replacement. Assume a fridge sells at $1,399 at Best Denki but $200 cheaper at the neighbourhood shop, I will still buy from Best Denki because for another $97.93, I can extend the warranty from 1 to 5 years. For just under $1,500 (or $299 per year), I get to use the fridge for a minimum of 5 years. Without the extended warranty, for $1,199 I get to use the fridge for a minimum of only 1 to 2 years. Based on my claims experience (fridge, washing machine, dryer, TV, oven), I can confirm that extended warranty is definitely worth buying. Some machines do come with 3 or 5 years warranty on certain parts but these are normally not the parts that will fail.

Edited by kstoh
 
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Here are some of my random thoughts, in no particular logical sequence.......

I don't know whether you guys have this problem, but every time you engage a painter and pay for ICI Dulux or Nippon paint, you wonder if they actually used the type of paint you paid for, or that they simply used a cheaper equivalent, Super Maxilite or Matex paint, which they buy in big containers. You see these containers and you ask them, they will tell you oh, they had to mix your ICI or Nippon paint, and they need to use these big containers. True or not, we do not know. Unless you go and buy the paint yourself and have them delivered to site.

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Anyway, I am so fed up with all these painters that for this new place, I decided not to use my ID's painter. Instead, I decided to engage directly my team of auntie painters. I found it quite hard to believe at first, but they are true. According to the auntie boss painter, she only employ auntie painters because they are more conscientious. I hope so. There were still places where I think they could have done a better job but overall, I think they were ok.

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Edited by kstoh
 
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It's very useful to install surveillance cameras. These days, there are many IP cameras on the market. All you need is a power source plus an internet connection (wired connecton preferred though a strong WiFi connection will suffice). Having asked the contractor to lay a network cable and electrical wire to the desired location, I installed most of my D-Link IP cameras myself.

I am using a combination of D-Link DCS-522L (PTZ camera) and DCS-942L (fixed direction).

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View of all cameras on my iPad

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Night Vision view of my yard captured by my webcam as viewed on my iPhone (total darkness)

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Same view of my yard at night as captured by my iPhone camera with flash off

This is one model I am using:

Edited by Ks Toh
 

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For those interested in my vertical garden, here is how it works. It is highly automated.

Basically, a rubber hose connected to a tap delivers water to the top of the vertical garden 4 times a day, allowing the water to drip down. The water supply is controlled by a battery operated timer, which opens the valve 4 times a day, each time for a few minutes. The water passes through a container of liquid fertiliser, which provides the plants with nutrients. Maintenance is limited to pruning every 2 to 3 weeks, and topping up of the liquid fertiliser and changing of the timer battery.

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P.S. My tap timer broke down after about 2 years 4 months and I had to change it. See here.

For chasing away insects which may be attracted to the plants, I installed 2 simple Shieldtox NaturGard Automatic Insect Repellent System. These spray a fine mist every 15 minutes. There are the same as those you find in toilets spraying deodorant.

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Edited by Ks Toh
 

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Nice vertical garden. Seems like maintenance is pretty minimal.

About the chengai wood, I heard that most of the older ones are salvaged because it's so difficult to source for old ones which have considerable strength.

Do you know where the source of yours is? My parents are also constructing a decking and are keen to use chengai wood though I've expressed quite a bit of reservation because of quite a few experiences which were not satisfactory.

If you could share any other experiences or pics of the wood in its current state, would be grateful!

 

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I do not know the source of my chengai. I think it is no longer safe to use new chengai, and old chengai will have nail holes etc.

My chengai was good when new, but after a few months, all the planks have warped slightly upwards at the side, meaning if you walk on it, you can feel it. It is not perfectly flat. I was pre-warned about this "natural" characteristic so I accept it. All of them also have hairline cracks, Again I was warned, so I also accept it as "natural". Nevertheless, I should add that my more than 10 year old chengai bench (the one you see in my yard) have not warped at all.

However, two of the planks had much more severe cracks after only a few weeks. Initially, the contractor told me he would change them, but somehow the workers that came down merely rectified it by sanding down, touching with wood putty and repainting. I was willing to accept it if the problem goes away. But it keeps coming back. They have already repaired it twice. Just yesterday, I spoke to the contractor and told him that I have had enough. He said he would come and investigate and let me know whether the planks should be changed or this is natural. He claims he already feedback to his wood supplier and was told this is natural. He says they will only change if the cracks are right through the wood.

I told him I do not accept it, and if this is a natural condition, then he should let me know the name of the supplier so that i can inform everybody (meaning post on Renotalk and everywhere) to expect this if they decide to order Chengai from him. I also told him if I have to spend thousdands of dollars to sue him for two silly planks (which apparently costs $100 or $200 only), I have done so before and I would do so again. It is a matter of principle. I am already willing to accept the wood as long as the problem can be rectified but they can't and you cannot expect me to be sanding and repainting them every few weeks.

Maybe those of you who are familiar with chengai wood can advise whether this is "natural" or not. This is the picture I took last week.

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On the other hand, my Accoya wood decking (see picture of my other balcony) is as good as new, save that some of the stained colour seems to have worn off. But the wood is still flat. No warping or peeling or cracking.

P.S. October 2018 - Few years later, I have come to realise the problem with Accoya Wood Flooring (and possibly other types of composite wood flooring). Unlike Chengai, it is impossible to paint/dye this wood. It keeps blistering off. And it is easy to replace planks of Chengai. DIfficult to replace each piece of this special wood.

My Accoya Flooring 5 Years On

 

Edited by Ks Toh
 

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Some worker do the silliest things. The workers who did my Accoya floor decking apparently painted it when it was not completely dry. And the result was that when I stepped onto it, the paint peeled off and stuck to my foot. Then they sent one worker to rectify. This worker cleverly painted around my flower pot, and left a design. When he was painting, I did see the flower pot and offered to help him carry it to a place that was not being painted, but he declined, saying it was not a problem.

However, just to clarify, all have been rectified. It's just that I find that many times, workers have to redo several times when they could have done it properly on one trip.

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Edited by kstoh
 

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